By the end of 2015, the process of destroying the chemical weapons in Russia. This will be a global event. His results and prospects are assessed by the direct participants in the formation and implementation of the federal chemical disarmament program, those who were at the very heart of the events - Vladimir Chupis, Doctor of Physics and Mathematics, who for more than 15 years led the FGU GosNIIENP, and Olga Nikitina - social activist, journalist, who covered all stages of disarmament in the media, the author of the acclaimed book “Bomb” for posterity ”, which was awarded the Mikhail Alekseev Prize of the Writers' Union of Russia.
- Vladimir Nikolayevich, why did you so vividly call the results of the chemical weapons destruction program the words of the famous Russian historian and philosopher Alexander Zinoviev “gaping heights”?
- Yes, everything is simple. The fact is that now, after 18 years have passed since the signing of the conventional agreements, the development and launch of the program, история Achievements also seem to be a history of the fundamental problems that have been formed that can nullify these achievements. It was assumed that the process of destruction of chemical agents (toxic substances) will end in the same civilized way as it began: plants that have invested huge budget funds will be converted into high-tech modern enterprises for the production of high-tech products, and the territory of Russia will be freed from the effects of storage and destruction of chemical weapons. These were the goals and objectives of the state program.
- Let's remember what it said and how it was taken. The program for the destruction of military chemistry began in crazy years of violent rallies and "rampant democracy", when information about 40 thousands of tons of agents to be destroyed, appeared to the population like a bolt from the blue. Nevertheless, the public immediately made excessive, and sometimes exorbitant demands for this absolutely new and unknown business for Russia. Under the influence of the protest movement, the plant in Chapaevsk, which had just been built with considerable Russian and international funds, was closed, and the regions that possessed the whole arsenals of agents' storage began, in turn, to adopt laws banning their destruction on their territory. In the end, a decision was formed prohibiting the transport of chemical munitions, and factories still had to be built in the areas where the chemical weapons stockpiles are located.
- It was the first essentially large Russian scientific and technical program of an international scale. There were no standard, proven approaches to solving this problem. But a fundamental step was taken: the concept of a civilized, environmentally safe destruction of chemical weapons was developed. It included both a special system of standards and exposure standards that govern the activities of hazardous facilities and minimizing their impact on the environment, and an equally important component - a system of integrated environmental monitoring. It should be noted that at the end of 1990-x - the beginning of 2000. we still retained the large Soviet scientific and technical potential inherited from the USSR, which ensured success in the early stages of the program. Leading research teams were involved in designing these complex systems. The state scientific research institute of industrial ecology, the head institute for Russia in the field of industrial and engineering ecology also belonged to them. It was there and then that the first eco-analytical laboratories for the study of sarin, soman, VX and other biological agents in environmental objects were created. As a result of fundamental and applied work, inherently maximalist integrated monitoring systems were created that are capable of controlling the most dangerous spectrum of substances that ever existed in nature. Both authorized state bodies and the public could participate in this control. 19 of modern accredited chemical-analytical, biological, toxicological-hygienic, genetic, radiation monitoring, and other laboratories was created. Central to this unmatched system was its ability to answer any question about the state of the environment. In reality, she even exceeded the demands that were able to criticize her. Well, as you recalled, the work proceeded in difficult conditions, when it was not necessary to count on the unconditional assistance of society and understanding of the importance of the much-needed business.
- A man from the outside could not even imagine how much was done practically from scratch, just how unbeaten you went in the name of environmental safety. I saw how these specialized eco-monitoring centers established in each region work. I want to add that they also widely informed the population about the state of the environment, and their employees participated in the discussion of problem solving, the work of the object at public meetings, through the local press, in leaflets, including on the pages of regular issues of thematic annexes to regional edition of "Izvestia", where I then worked. This openness of the system changed the mood of the population from hostility and fear to normal perception. It is impossible to forget these meetings, heated up to the limit, with public activists and local residents in Kotelnichy of the Kirov region, in the Udmurt Kambarka, in the Saratov village of Gorny and others. A kind of “information umbrella” ensured the assistance of regional authorities and mutual understanding with numerous public organizations. What is the state of things now?
- The first basic stage was completed on time: the plants were built, a powerful infrastructure was created, which turned the objects into closed high-tech clusters that have equipped campuses for staff, their own diagnostic and treatment centers, fire extinguishing stations, and much more, which is not typical of ordinary industry. All of these points were reflected in the program of the destruction of chemical weapons. Moreover, they represented a rare example of Russia for a conceptual approach to organizing an essentially specialized industry.
The executor of the program was the Federal Office for the Storage and Destruction of Chemical Weapons, originally created as part of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. The leadership of the military, although not flawless, provided many organizational advantages. This determined both the success of the Russian program in the early stages of the destruction of agents, and ... subsequent problems.
The principal feature of CWD facilities is that they are not plants in the usual sense. In fact, they did not produce marketable products, but wastes generated during the neutralization of combat agents - as a rule, 1-3 hazard classes. Security requirements were the highest. Standards for maximum permissible levels of concentration of chemical agents and their transformation products in industrial premises and in the environment turned these enterprises into high-tech facilities, equipped with modern multi-level, complementary systems of industrial and environmental safety.
Of course, all this increased the cost of the program, but the calculation was that in the not-so-distant future, these facilities would constitute "points of growth" for the domestic high-tech industry. The invested funds should have repeatedly paid off in the long term, and highly qualified personnel have been preserved and reoriented towards the production of badly needed products in the country.
Now, when the destruction of projectiles and aerial bombs filled with the most dangerous substances is completed, it becomes clear that the second basic stage is “stuck”, and gaping holes are formed in “shining heights”. The complex of issues related to the elimination of the consequences of storing and destroying chemical agents and the subsequent fate of industrial facilities equipped with the most modern equipment remains completely incomplete.
- Why did the program get inhibited? This became especially noticeable after 2004 - 2005, when the plant in Gorny that fulfilled its mission really “froze” for more than a decade. It would seem that there was more than enough time left, and there was enough money in those years, called “fatty”. Luxurious villages for the facility’s staff and local residents, a dispensary, a clinic with such modern equipment, which was not even in the cities, schools, stadiums, other social and cultural facilities, were built! What prevented all other measures - on reorganization and reprofiling of the object - to be performed at the same pace, without interruption, “in one breath”?
- If you do not touch on many related problems that have complicated the work, the answer is really simple. This is the absence of a well-thought-out concept and an attempt to solve complex high-level tasks with command methods, without relying on the system of scientific and technical support. The problems began when, after the launch of the facilities, it was necessary to consistently solve the tasks of the program for the environmental rehabilitation of contaminated areas and the conversion of CWD facilities. And they turned out to be much more difficult than those that were associated with the destruction of combat agents. A number of factories were built in the immediate vicinity of old arsenals and territories in which, using uncivilized methods, without observing any safety rules, they stored and destroyed in the past stocks of chemical agents that are commensurate with those that have already been destroyed. As a result, large areas were contaminated by extremely hazardous substances that have mutagenic and carcinogenic properties. This was shown by the research conducted by FGU GosNIIENP with my direct participation in 2008 - 2011.
- A typical example is a former object located in the Udmurt Republic (136-I base of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation) for storage of large stocks of yperite and lewisite (the latter, according to some estimates, was over 5 thousand tons) ...
- Yes, for their placement, recessed brick storages were built, permeable for these types of agents. According to reports, later poisonous substances simply burned in the open air. Part of the vaults was closed with concrete covers, some remained open, and for many years was littered with debris, overgrown with grass, shrubs and trees.
It was necessary to carry out the whole complex of chemical-analytical, biological, genetic, and sanitary-toxicological studies in order to obtain maximum information about the state of contaminated sites. Concentrations of chemical agents and their transformation products near old storage facilities reach 1000 MPC - these are extremely dangerous levels. A particular problem is contamination with dioxins due to the massive combustion of organic substances: they are 18 - 20 times the established standards.
But not all substances we are able to analyze. According to our estimates, the total number of formed supertoxicants reaches hundreds of compounds. The performed genetic tests showed an extremely high mutagenic effect, the deviation from the norm in this case was not less than 82% (the norm is 10%). Toxicological and hygienic studies revealed significant morphological deviations (up to 45%) in experimental animals. As a result, the results showed that most of the surveyed territories have the first hazard class, which according to all criteria is defined as “extremely dangerous” to human health.
Moreover, the gradual spread of pollution was established outside this territory. The obtained data makes it possible to assert with a high probability that all plants growing on the object, including trees, have significant anomalies at the chromosome level. Simply put, they are all mutants and create an extremely dangerous factor for the natural environment of the region.
A similar situation is observed in vast areas near the Leonidovka disposal facility in the Penza region after the liquidation of chemical aviation ammunition. In fact, these are scorched lands, on which nothing has been alive for decades. But the most dangerous factor is total genetic damage to natural systems, and to such an extent that there are no analogues among the known forms of oppression of vegetation. In addition, it is at this and similar objects that the products of OM transformation in natural environments come to the forefront of chemical damage, as well as the poorly studied effects of low and ultra-low (not recorded by known analytical methods) concentrations of toxic substances. We can say with confidence that similar pollution exists in other regions. Such a phenomenon has never been observed in the history of ecology.
- It turns out that the process of destruction of chemical weapons exposed only the visible tip of the iceberg of problems? Only today there is an opportunity to make a real picture of the colossal environmental damage of the military legacy of the twentieth century for the regions of Russia in which the natural environment and population experience long-term effects - genetic changes. Scientists from Udmurtia, Saratov, Penza, who created technologies for improving the natural environment, dealt with this problem. I had to write about a large-scale project of ecological rehabilitation of the territories of former chemical plants in Chapaevsk, Samara Region, including the production of mustard gas and lewisite. Only stalkers can visit this city, and it is impossible to live in it, as in the Chernobyl zone. But people, long-time residents of the city, who have nowhere to go, live! Is our country ready to deal with all these "chemical" zones? Is it possible to bring the territories you named into a safe state?
- It is impossible to carry out the excavation and detoxification of millions of tons of contaminated soil for either economic or technical reasons. Similarly, there is not even an experimental technology that provides for the neutralization of a wide range of supertoxicants resulting from the transformation of organic matter in the natural environment. This is the case when you need to stop and carry out a complex of research and experimental technological works. The danger in this case is that ill-conceived measures can significantly expand the existing range of pollution. Problems need to be solved by other methods, with the involvement of competent research organizations and the use of fundamentally different methodological and technological approaches, including the creation of a permanent specialized system of integrated environmental monitoring. Contaminated areas should be isolated as much as possible and turned into detoxification landfills, where environmental rehabilitation technologies should be worked out.
- Ecology issues are not limited to CWD problem. You called another slowed down stage of the program - the conversion of objects, their transformation into modern high-tech productions. The closest example is the fate of the Gorny village in the Saratov region. So what about him?
- It has been more than 10 years since the completion of the destruction of agents at this facility, but no reasonable decisions have been made about its future fate. There was no complete detoxification of the facility itself and the large base of the former storage of organic agents located near it. Moreover, more than 12 thousand tons of so-called “dry salts”, which were formed during the destruction of lewisite and are a concentrate of arsenic compounds, were transported here from the Udmurt Republic. “Relocation” was carried out due to the fact that the “full cycle” technology, designed to produce a commercial product in the form of metallic arsenic or its oxide, was not implemented at the Kambarka facility. In 2008 - 2009, formally, on a tender basis, a selection was made of the project to turn the Gorny facility into a new production. Nothing is known about the results, but it can be assumed that the work did not take place because of the extremely light-hearted understanding of the military customer about the methods of solving this task and the difficulties that need to be overcome on this very difficult path. Small projects were started that did not solve the main task. In addition, private events have increased the irretrievable costs of the program. For the development of technologies for obtaining technical products, a new organization was created, as it were, with the world, but ... Solving complex problems in any sphere from wheels is not easy, but in science and technology this is impossible! Unfortunately, it became clear that the developers simply do not have a sufficient stock of knowledge. As a result, it was proposed - “not too late” - to entrust this task to two or three scientific organizations known for their achievements in the hope that fundamentally new processes for processing non-standard raw materials will be created in the end. However ... in the absence of an ideological reserve, it is better not to proceed with this matter.
“But after all, projects for the production of highly pure arsenic for the synthesis of semiconductors such as gallium arsenide were started long before that, as the press reported.
- All that had to be done was to invite specialists and get acquainted with the existing documentation. But even without all this, it seems that a noble undertaking was doomed to failure. It is difficult to imagine a large plant with large energy consumption, producing only one to two tons of highly pure arsenic from huge reserves of raw materials. The cost of production and maintenance of the enterprise will be simply incommensurable with the output of products.
- At your institute, too, a program was created under the catchy, in the spirit of the time, called “Arsenitova Valley” by analogy with Silicon. What is its essence?
“The CWD plants are a ready base for Russian microelectronics, and their products, the same wastes, are valuable raw materials, which in fact was reflected in our developments. We are convinced that the conventional solution is to create a comprehensive program for processing these raw materials into the most demanded products of the widest range. The task of organizing on this basis the powerful direction of the electronic industry, that planned growth point, should be thought out at least for decades to come. Faster such problems are not solved. This was exactly the result of our program, but for the same reasons of organizational chaos, it was not implemented.
- How do you see the further fate of the plants? You can not just take and forget about them. Unpromising small towns and villages that have received a second wind should not lose hope for a decent life again. They have remained modern industrial facilities, highly qualified personnel, expensive infrastructure. Along with Gorny, the plants in Kambarka (Udmurtia), Maradykovo (Kirov region), Pochep (Bryansk region) stopped, the rest were next. I just can’t believe that there will be no decision on the conversion and reprofiling, especially since this ideology was incorporated in the federal program and this is a common cause for our country.
- As it is now becoming obvious, the main problem was that, in the wake of the first success, the system of scientific and technical support and effective, competent leadership of all subsequent stages were not formed. And now we have - not having a well-thought-out perspective, not neutralized objects, polluted sites of old arsenals and places of "army" methods of destruction of stocks of agents. In fact, individual attempts to complete the program in a civilized manner or at least create conditions for the continuation of work did not produce results and the work stopped by itself. Over the course of 16, the meaning originally embedded in it was gradually washed out.
Just as for solving the environmental problems of chemical disarmament, a system of scientific and technical support should be created to create technologies for the rehabilitation of contaminated areas and facilities and their subsequent conversion to high-tech industries. And this, first of all, is a question of competence, which was just not enough, which convincingly illustrates the fact: so far, no conversion program has been developed for any plant. This is quite a long process, requiring appropriate qualifications and experience in design and production activities. Far not all the same, in whose hands is this process. If we are guided by the interests of the case, then an expert group of leading specialists in this field should be involved. This was not done. Thus, the substitution of concepts gradually took place, and today we have unsolved conventional tasks and left for later, to distant descendants, a complex of very complex technological and environmental problems. Of course, this greatly complicates the current situation. But, nevertheless, the problem must be solved, and the factories that have fallen out of the sight of the state - the country's national wealth and a practically ready technopark - deserve to tackle the problem at the highest level.
The international obligations on the destruction of chemical weapons were ratified by the RF 13 January 1993 of the year under the "Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction." One of the main points of this document was the safe, secure and environmentally friendly destruction of chemical weapons. In 1996, the Federal Target Program “Destruction of Chemical Weapon Stockpiles in the Russian Federation” was developed. It reflects fundamentally important positions. The first is that chemical weapons should be destroyed at factories specially built for this purpose at the locations of storage arsenals. The second is that in the development of design and working documentation of facilities, priority should be given to ensuring the safety of personnel, citizens living and working in the areas of protective measures, protecting the environment and ensuring the environmental safety of all types of work. In Russia, seven factories were built: in the village of Gorny, Saratov region, the city of Kambarka and the city of Kizner, the Udmurt Republic, the village of Maradykovsky, Kirov region, the city of Schuchye, Kurgan region, the village of Leonidovka, Penza region and in the town of Pochep, Bryansk region. Currently, work on the destruction of chemical weapons is nearing completion.